Chad Elie on Jeremy Johnson’s Black Friday Asset Excesses, Part 2
Last time out, we detailed how two of the online-payment processing people involved in the Black Friday circumstances surrounding the SunFirst Bank in Utah, Chad Elie and Jeremy Johnson, began to share in the proceeds. As Elie testified at a deposition hearing for Johnson, Johnson had long been a subscriber in the theory of moving funds out of the banking grid and into other holdings, such as precious metals.
Johnson talked Elie into purchasing $750,000 worth of gold bullion as Johnson showed Elie the contents of two large walk-in safes full of gold, silver and boxes of cash, stored at Johnson’s estate near St. George, Utah.
As promised last time out, this Part 2 shows how the hoarding grew, and details the extreme lengths to which Johnson went to hide these assets once the FTC began closing in. Thanks to Johnson and his accountants, all the business accounts had long since been intermingled, so the tens of millions from Johnson’s FTC-targeted, fraudulent telemarketing activities became commingled with more tens of millions from the SunFirst poker processing operation, of which roughly 90% of the proceeds went to Johnson and his associates.
When Chad Elie first visited Johnson’s estate in 2009, Johnson’s two large safes were jaw-dropping for the wealth they contained. Johnson also planned to defend against any casual robbery attempts with a bit of firepower. More on that second safe, from Johnson’s testimony:
Elie: I saw — he brought me in there and there were two big guns, like 50 — I don’t know what they’re called. Fifty …
Elie: 50-millimeter guns. They are huge, big casings. And the rest was just lined with silver, big huge silver brick bars.
But as Elie testified, that two safes later became six. In a late 2010 visit, as Johnson was subpoenaed to testify to the FTC over his early IWorks operation, the asset hiding increased:
Attorney: … He opened one of the safes, or both of them, or was there more than one? How many were there?
Elie: Yeah, there were about six or seven safes at that time.
Attorney: Six or seven safes at that time?
Elie: Yes, sir.
Attorney: All about the same size or different sizes?
Elie: There were some big ones, probably about four or five that are big, and then some small ones.
Attorney: Did he open them all or just some of them?
Elie: Just kind of went through. It was the last time I was ever in St. George. Again, I was upset that I wasn’t getting my 50 percent. Now Jeremy was claiming that he was completely broke, and my gold was gone, and I wanted my gold. He said the Vowells [Johnson’s accountants] had the gold. He showed me all this cash. I mean there was cash in these safes, but my gold was missing.
Attorney: Describe the quantity of cash that you saw in the safe.
Elie: Yeah. I mean this time — I mean it was probably maybe 50 times what I saw before. I mean he had boxes of cash.
Johnson went on to continuing hiding his assets after being targeted by the FTC. Here’s Elie testifying about three buried stashes of cash and precious metals, accessible only be helicopter, somewhere in the mountains around St. George, Utah. This lengthy testimony passage reveals the real nature of Jeremy Johnson:
Elie: He took me on a flight. We went over a mountain. He told me that was one of his spots where he keeps his cash or gold. And he told me he was going to give me the GPS locators to all three of his spots. He said he had hree spots in the mountains and only a helicopter could get to.
Attorney: He only showed you one of them?
Attorney: Did he ever give you the GPS directions?
Elie: No, sir.
Attorney: Did he say anything more about those stashes of gold and cash?
Elie: In the mountains?
Elie: He just told me that, you know, if you ever got in trouble, that he was going to show one and that he would be able to keep the other two.
Attorney: Did he say what he meant by get in trouble?
Elie: Getting in trouble by the FTC because of this — the letter that he showed me.
Attorney: I’ve shown you Exhibit Number — is it 26? What’s the exhibit number on that?
Attorney: What is that?
Elie: It’s a letter from the Federal Trade Commission requesting Mr. Johnson to preserve his assets.
Attorney: Did you ever see that about the time it was sent?
Elie: I did, yes.
Attorney: Who showed it to you?
Attorney: Did he say anything at that time about it?
Elie: Yeah. He just told me that this is what he got and he was, you know, worried about having assets in his name.
Attorney: Did he say anything about what he intended to do?
Elie: Not at that time.
Attorney: Did he at any other time, any later time?
Elie: He intended to look broke for the FTC.
Attorney: He made that statement to you?
Elie: Yes, sir.
You think burying the stashes on mountaintops was enough? There was also the sinking of it lakes… not that there’s a ton of those in Utah:
Elie: … He had things of gold. He even had submersibles that he was putting cash into that he was planning on bringing them into a lake.
Attorney: Did you see the submersibles?
Elie: I did. They were — sorry.
Attorney: They were where?
Elie: They were in the back of the truck that we were driving. They looked like the ATM things when you are going through a drive-through.
Attorney: Those pneumatic tubes?
Elie: Yes, sir.
Attorney: They had something in them? Did you see what was in them?
Elie: Yeah, wads of cash.
Attorney: How many of them were there?
Elie: I believe four.
Attorney: What did he say he was going to do with them?
Elie: He was dropping them in lakes.
It’s all a phenomenal tale of exceed and greed, driven by a man whose sense of entitlement clearly stretched far, far behind the law. One question the testimony raises is how believeable is Elie, given his own complicity in the schemes, and his willingness to go along with so much of this?
After all, Elie has also shown a willingness to omit a lot of his own part of the story, including an additional $4.25 million in Stars funds that he seemed to have pocketed for himself, as detailed in the Black Friday indictment court documents. Nonetheless, his tales about Jeremy Johnson’s asset-hiding measures offer numerous examples of the fine details that are just missing from complex, crafted lies. The above rings pretty darn true, Elie’s own innocence or guilt aside.